Elvis Costello

The Right Spectacle: The Very Best of Elvis Costello [Rhino]

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This may not be the final word in Elvis Costello video collections, but it's going to be tough to compile a more complete recap. Not only does this present 27 video clips beginning with 1978's "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" (from his This Year's Model album) and running through 1994's "13 Steps Lead Down," but the DVD also includes live material derived mostly from European TV shows spanning 1977-1983. Costello is a big part of the package, not only writing the liner notes, but providing voice-over -- and very tongue in cheek -- commentary for each clip, on a separate audio track. Most of the early material remains as wince-inducing as when it was originally shot, mostly due to limited budgets and the naïvety of the medium in its earliest days. Probably the most successful stab at creating a Costello/Attractions video was 1979's animated "Accidents Will Happen," the only one of his early attempts that enhances the song rather than detracts from it. Fast forward to Trust's black-and-white "New Lace Sleeves" (1981), interestingly a song that was not a single, for the next highlight, but even some of the ones that follow are downright embarrassing in their dated presentation. The terrific "I Wanna Be Loved," a black-and-white/color art film that finds people of all ages and races kissing a dour-looking Costello in close-up is by far the most adventurous clip here, and one of the only ones that brings a unique, in this case dark, vision to the track. Still, the DVD is a fun trip down memory lane, and is best appreciated with Costello's wry and typically dry humor as accompaniment. The audio is two-track stereo, clean but nothing outstanding and has not been remixed into surround for this DVD (as was done so successfully with John Lennon's 2003 Legend video compilation). The hour's worth of live tunes is arguably more interesting, especially since they were pretty hard to find previously. Concert versions of such obscurities as "Big Sister's Clothes," "Clowntime Is Over," "Shot With His Own Gun," and "Peace in Our Time" are a major find for fans and show Elvis & the Attractions in solid form in their natural habitat, on-stage. As Costello notes in his liners, there are plenty of tube appearances missing, including the legendary one from Saturday Night Live, but they may end up on another DVD. Between this and Club Date: Live in Memphis, 2005 was a banner year for Elvis Costello on DVD.

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